How to handle food poisoning in children at home

In most cases, a child is exposed to poison without knowing that it may be harmful. 

This is common, especially among toddlers aged between one and three years. Children explore their environment as part of their normal, natural development. They learn about new things by playing with them – trying to open containers, mimicking what they see siblings or adults do, putting things in their mouth and so on. A child may also be poisoned if they are given the wrong medicine or wrong dose of medicine.

Most poisonings involving children happen at home, but they can also occur while visiting friends and family, or while on holiday. Often, the substance is left within sight, ready to be used but left unattended.


Visitors’ bags may be left within the reach of children, which is a problem if they contain medicines or other poisonous substances. At other times, children may climb up high to get something they are interested in. Sometimes, parents and caretakers underestimate their child’s climbing ability. Plants or mushrooms in the home garden may also present a poisoning risk to your child.

Adults may also overestimate a child’s ability to understand safety messages. Telling a child a product is dangerous is not enough to protect them from poisoning.

Young children do not know the difference between what is safe and what is dangerous. Parents and caretakers must take responsibility of making homes safe for children.

If you suspect a child has been exposed to a poison or given the wrong medicine or the wrong dose of medicine, do not wait for symptoms to occur. Seek help immediately and get the child to the hospital.

How child poisoning can occur;

⊙ Poison may be swallowed.
⊙ Spit on the skin.
⊙ Sprayed or splashed in the eye or inhaled.

If your child has had a significant poisoning, any symptoms that develop will depend on a number of factors, such as which medicine or chemical is involved and how much the child has been exposed to. Otherwise, the most symptoms of poisoning may include:

- Nausea
- Vomiting
- Drowsiness
- Falling over
- Tummy pain

Do not wait for poisoning symptoms to appear.

If a child in your care has been or may have been poisoned, given the wrong medicine or wrong dose of medicine, do not wait for symptoms to occur. Call for help immediately and get the child to the hospital.

Do not try to make the child vomit. This can do more harm than good.

NOTE: Keep all poisons, especially things you use every day, such as medicines, drain cleaners, oven or grill cleaners, bleach, and dishwasher machine powder, well out of reach. Always double check before giving medicine to children.

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